I just love giving students choice: It instantly makes them more motivated and engaged! Especially when it comes to big and important tasks like assessments. One thing that I have great experience with is letting students choose the format of a cruise or lab report. After all, if writing a classical lab report isn’t a learning outcome in itself, why restrict their creativity and have them create in a format that is — let’s be honest — super boring to read for the instructor?
I have previously given students the choice between a blog post, an Instagram post, and tweets, but would next time open it up to include other formats like tictoc or podcasts or even any social media format they like. What I did was give them the choice of format, and then also the choice of actually publishing it (on either a platform that I provided, or on one they organized themselves), or “just” submitting something that could have been posted on one of those platforms but ended up just visible to me and the class.
So how do we then make sure that the different formats all have the same level of “difficulty”, that it’s a fair assignment? This is where rubrics come in. Your rubric might assess several categories: First and foremost, the one directly related to your learning outcome. In case of a lab report things like is the experimental setup described correctly, does it become clear why an experiment is being performed and how it is done, are observations clearly described and results discussed etc.. All of these things can be done equally well in a twitter thread and in a blog post.
If you are so inclined and it is part of your learning outcomes, you might also evaluate if the social media channel is used well (An example evaluation rubric for Instagram posts here).
And lastly — you could require a reflection document in which students discuss whether they did address the different points from the rubric, and where they have the chance to justify for example why they did not include certain aspects in the social media post, but provide additional information in that document (for example if you would like to see the data in a table, that might not be easy to include in a podcast). Requiring this document has at least two positive effects: Making sure the students actually engage with the rubric, and levelling the playing field by giving everybody the opportunity to elaborate on things that weren’t so easily implemented in their chosen format.
If you want to make sure that students really feel it’s all fair, you could even negotiate the rubric with them, so they can up- or downvote whichever aspects they feel should count for more or less.
What do you think, would you give your students such choices? Or do you even have experience with it? We’d love to hear from you!